“Reading” journal articles, texts, cases…

Those of us who mentor, teach, write, and research in legal professional education and training tend to read a lot. It may seem strange that I should post about “how” I “read” certain materials for study and research purposes.

The impetus for this post came from discussions I had with academics, teachers, and students, about how I take notes, and how I approach literature reviews. For example, one academic noticed I had over 2,000 journal articles in my Endnote library. Then she referred to my comment that technology does not substitute for one’s own intellectual and critical engagement with the texts. “How”, she asked, “did you manage to read all those articles?”

Well, I did read them. And I didn’t. At times I want to get through a lot of literature quickly, but effectively. This is what I do:

Before I start reading, I make a concept map of main headings (I’ve used Scapple for these examples). Headings can be extracted from a book’s table of contents, and most articles have headings;* if not, create your own:

reading1 Here, for example, I’m looking at Eric D Ragan et al, ‘Unregulated use of laptops over time in large lecture classes’ (2014) 78 Computers & Education 78.
DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2014.05.002.

I “skim” the article for sub-headings, topic sentences,  key quotes, and add these to the concept map:

reading2Ten minutes’ work gives me a single page “snapshot” of the text. I can save this figure to the record for this article in my Endnote library. I know that not everybody likes concept maps – it is possible to use the same approach in tabular or organisation chart format – use what works for you. The kinaesthesia, or “doing”, of the visualisation pays off for recall and synthesis of information.

In Scapple, I can export the text in the concept map to a “research notes” or “keywords” field in the Endnote record. This effectively “tags” the record with searchable keywords, making it possible to cross-reference articles with similar keywords. I use the Endnote “smart groups” tool to search for keywords and collate mini-libraries of references. This makes it easier to export them for more detailed analysis later, using tools like NVivo. In so doing, I make the “reading” pay off later, becoming a durable resource for study and research.

Producing the concept map helps me to recall the salient features of an article. I’ve used a similar approach when studying cases, legislation, text books, guides, manuals. etc.

The “skimming” technique takes a little practice. It gets easier as your knowledge of a topic improves. Rather than read the text line-by-line at first instance, train your eye to recognise key words and topic sentences. In essence, a good topic sentence expresses the controlling idea in a paragraph.** I find this is a much faster approach than reading a text line-by-line from beginning to end.

For later detailed analysis, you can read more closely. I find this easier when I’ve used the techniques described above. It is easier to apprehend and understand concepts on successive passes. If memory is your goal (“learning, association, retention, and reproduction”),*** creative repetition through skimming, mapping, “chunking”, organisation, and application, will assist you.

* A lot of research articles use the IMRAD structure (“introduction”, “methods”, “result”, “analysis”, “discussion/conclusion”), so you might make a template for these, ready to go.
** See: Randall L Popken, ‘A study of topic sentence use in academic writing’ (1987) 4(2) Written Communication 209.
*** Hermann Ebbinghaus, ‘1964’ (1885)  Memory: A contribution to experimental psychology. Also see: Fernand Gobet et al, ‘Chunking mechanisms in human learning’ (2001) 5(6) Trends in cognitive sciences 236; Eugène J. F. M. Custers and Olle T. J. ten Cate, ‘Very long-term retention of basic science knowledge in doctors after graduation’ (2011) 45(4) Medical Education 422.

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APLEC 2014 | Auckland | November 13-15

noir_auckland_sunsetThis year the Annual Conference for the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council will be hosted by the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, at the Auckland University of Technology Law School Campus in Auckland, New Zealand.

The conference theme is: “Creating Communities of Learning”. You can download a copy of the Conference Brochure.

Key dates:

1 July Registrations and Call for papers
3 October
Deadline for call for papers
10 October
Notification of acceptance
17 October – Early Bird registration closes
3 November
– Registration closes
13 November – Conference Registration and Welcome
14-15 November – Conference

It looks interesting, and the conference theme is one I would like to see explored by PLT practitioners, in interdisciplinary and inter-institutional ways.

I hope to see you there.

 

 

 

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I’m going to #issotl14 |Quebec City | October 22-25

issotl 2014 acceptanceI am excited to learn that my abstract is accepted for the International Society of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Annual Conference in Quebec City, Canada, later this year.

For me, this is an excellent opportunity to constructively confront my research with leading international scholars in the scholarship of teaching and learning (“SoTL”) field. I personally believe that we can raise the status of SoTL in legal education, and particularly practical legal training, by undertaking interdisciplinary work, so that we can learn from, and test our ideas with, scholars in other fields.

I’m very fortunate to have already presented at the British Sociological Association annual conference and the Association of Law Teachers annual conference (both in Leeds, England) earlier this year. That means I’ve already used up my institutional higher degree by research international conference allowance. If you have any tips about alternative sources, such as bursaries or scholarships, please let me know!

 

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“Digital Literacy” in #legaled, begins here?

There is an ongoing discussion about digital technologies in education and practice – in legal education, practical legal training and professional practice. It is a discussion that recasts itself from time to time, e.g. as “digital literacy”. My interest in this area involves a couple of prisms – academic and professional legal education, professional and individual practices. I studied flexible, online and distance education (“FODE”) as a subject back in 2009 as part of my Masters in Professional Education and Training at Deakin University. In the context of some recent discussions, e.g. Kate Galloway’s posts at the Curl blog, I reviewed my notes from 2009 and put these online via a YouTube video. (More after the video)

I’m focusing on teaching and learning here, whereas the digital literacy debate is broader, and includes issues such as the legal profession’s engagement with digital technologies in practice. I would argue, however, that some attitudes about digital literacy begin in the formative stages of legal education, and the assumptions of regulators who accredit and approve courses. These notes date from 2009, but some issues are durable. I’ll mention a few of these here.

“Interactions” – some commentators seem to conceptualise FODE interactions as wholly online interactions. Interactions in teaching and learning are important, and there appears to be some anxiety about the nature and quality of interactions in #legaled. See, for example the Roper Report [1] and Gaye Lansdell’s publications on this [2][3]. “Online-ness” is treated as antithetical in #legaled, and particularly in PLT. What is often overlooked is the “blended” nature of existing courses, i.e. a blend of face-to-face and online interactions, and in PLT the work experience and reflective component of the courses. I recall attending a final plenary session at the 2012 APLEC conference in Hobart, in which the panel was manifestly disengaged from the existence of blended learning with FODE as one (multi-dimensional) tool in the instructional design toolbox. The sector suffers from a lack of local empirical research concerning interactions in FODE and teaching and learning in legal education and PLT. We need this research to inform regulators and educators. Also, as the video mentions, FODE and non-FODE “interactions” occur across many dimensions. Interactions are important, and a holistic approach is necessary for effective teaching and learning. This includes recognition of a reflexive-dialectical dimension for interactions, involving reflections in individual and extra-individual aspects of teaching and learning.

“Enablement” and “Social Justice” – FODE has the capacity to overcome restrictions in time and space, and to provide alternative means of communication and engagement. This capacity potentially enables individuals, who might otherwise be denied equal opportunity, to engage in legal education and training. I have personal experience of this as a deaf person, but I’m not just talking about disability. In Australia, overcoming the “tyranny of distance” remains an issue for rural and regional areas. Information and communications technology is increasingly affordable across socio-economic levels. I believe the legal profession would be the better for diversity in its membership – and the equity and parity of opportunity that FODE can contribute in legal education plays its part in this.

“Flexibility and Overload” – It is a double-edged sword. Flexibility can offer equity and parity in opportunities, but there are some institutional and individual issues on the teaching side of things. There seems to me to be a widespread mistaken belief that FODE is a cheap business model. Well, it is, if you’re not really concerned about whether your teaching and learning model is effective and satisfactory. If you do care, then FODE takes substantial investment of planning, funding, time and personnel to realise  good outcomes. There seems to be an increasing tendency of institutions to casualise teaching positions in FODE environments, to use practitioners without adequate training in teaching and learning theory and practice and/or FODE technologies. That tendency, together with inadequate planning or instructional design, undermines the effectiveness of FODE. Also, I believe it places an unfair burden on teachers, particularly those who really care about their effectiveness, because they must often compensate for inadequacies in planning, design and training by contributing substantial hours of unpaid work.

“Industrialisation” of #legaled – Otto Peters [4][5] foresaw a situation where industrialised education would involve employing less-qualified instructors to “deliver” instruction to learners, with qualified personnel reserved for planning and policy. If teaching and learning was like the mass production of widgets (“work-ready lawyers”), the industrialised model might work okay. But I contend it isn’t, and it doesn’t. I mentioned above the reflexive-dialectical aspects of teaching and learning. Part of this involves thinking about the teachers and practical legal training practitioners. Individuals with substantial intellectual and practical expertise have self actualisation needs that should be considered, if they are to thrive and remain motivated.[6] To neglect this consideration disrespects and undermines those individuals. This aspect can communicate itself to learners, who might under-rate the relevance and importance of the teaching and so, in turn, undermine the learners’ motivation to engage with learning.

“thinking” – I am an “early adopter” of technologies, and personally believe FODE has enormous potential. I argue that it is important, however, to remember that technologies are extensions or enablers of action. They do not substitute for intellectual engagement, critical thinking, methodologies or planning, on which they depend.

[1] Christopher Roper, ‘Standards for Approving Practical Legal Training Courses and Providers’ (Victoria Council of Legal Education, 2008).
[2] Gaye Lansdell, Have We Forsaken Quality and Professionalism for Technological Convenience in the Training of Lawyers in the 21st Century? The ‘Flexible Learning’Paradigm (2010).
[3] Gaye T Lansdell, ‘Have We ‘Pushed the Boat Out Too Far’ in Providing Online Practical Legal Training? A Guide to Best Practices for Future Programs’ (2009) 19(1 & 2) Legal Education Review 149.
[4] Otto Peters, 1969, ‘New Perspectives in Correspondence Study in Europe’, paper presented to 8th conference of the International Council on Correspondence Education, Paris, May 1969, <http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/33/fb/4c.pdf>.
[5] Otto Peters, ‘Distance education and industrial production: a comparative interpretation in outine’ in D Stewart, D Keegan and B Holmberg (eds), Distance Education: International Perspectives (1983) 95.
[6] Abraham Harold Maslow, ‘A theory of human motivation’ (1943) 50(4) Psychological Review 370.

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Michel Pistone and Beryl Blaustone on Motivation

This is a lovely six minute video produced by Professors Michel Pistone (Villanova University School of Law) and Beryl Blaustone (CUNY Law School) regarding extrinsic and intrinsic factors in motivation and learning. In essence, extrinsic factors (e.g. rewards) are said to be useful for motivating rote learning, whereas intrinsic factors (autonomy, mastery, purpose) motivate creative thinking and problem solving skills, but do watch the video for yourself…

Motivating 21st Century Law Students from Michele Pistone on Vimeo.

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“Thinking Like a Lawyer” v “Thinking Like a Teacher” – Fun with Google Scholar

In 2013, I presented some research findings at the Australasian Professional Legal Education Council (“APLEC”) annual conference. The findings were drawn from a question I asked in interviews with 35 PLT practitioners, ‘”Is thinking like a lawyer different to thinking like a teacher?” You can view a copy of the Prezi here.

I’m writing up the findings for my thesis, and I thought I would check Google Scholar for recent literature. I noticed this:

Google Scholar searched 21 May 2014
Google Scholar searched 21 May 2014

Seems a lot of thinking (or writing) about “thinking like a lawyer” is going on. Teaching? Not so much. This is a topic of great interest to me in academic and professional legal education. As I’ve posted recently, there are good reasons for serious engagement with scholarship of teaching and learning.

 

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Impressions from ALT Annual Conference 2014 Day 3

imageThe third and final day of the ALT Annual Conference (Tuesday, 15 April) consisted of two rounds of parallel sessions.

First up, Gemma Davies and Emma Piasecki from Northumbria University spoke to “Where to now for the Bar after LETR?” They began with the question, ‘Is the bar training course fit for the purpose?’ They observed the LETR prima facie accepted legal education was working well, but there is room for improvement, although changes should be accomplished with a “light touch”. This involves taking into account existing positions and structures when dealing with the bar, including the notion of an independent bar. Gemma and Emma observed that the existing “blue book” regulation of the bar training course is very prescriptive and inhibits innovation, with implications for diversity in the profession. There are some ‘encouraging themes’ emerging through an education strategy framework, with a focus on an outcomes-based approach. It remains uncertain whether regulation of the bar training course will be eased to allow more innovative approaches to training.

My presentation followed, ‘O where are you going? O do you imagine? Reproduction and Response – A reflexive sociology of scholarship of teaching and learning in practical legal training’. The Prezi can be viewed here. A draft paper can downloaded from here. I tried to fit too much into this presentation (although an awful lot of work was left out – but isn’t that always the way?). Feedback was positive, with half a dozen people following up with questions and requests for a copy of the paper during the morning tea break.

After the break, Jane Ching (Nottingham Law School) spoke to “The Judge and the Jedi II: the Academy Strikes Back”. This interesting session explored the power or occulting of legal language, through a series of vignettes or games. It is an occult power that law students need to “get” to practice law. Jane took us through different points of view – what people think lawyers do with language, what lawyers think lawyers do with language, what linguists think lawyers do with language, and whether linguists, social scientists and psychologists can help us to understand what lawyers do with language. There were some interesting examples of how this can be explored through teaching and learning in legal education. One example was converting a terse memorandum into an email to counsel, a letter to a 60 yr old financial director client, a text to a 22 yr old Iranian asylum seeker client, and a case summary to be filed at court. An interesting reflective session that took me back to my undergraduate studies in socio-linguistics.

Last presentation of the day and of the conference, was Nigel Duncan’s (City Law School), “Representation: Developing Objectivity and Artistry for trainee lawyers”. Nigel’s presentation described an innovation to help students develop professional objectivity as lawyers. In particular, students were given realistic case files to run over several sessions, from taking instructions, writing an opinion, attending a mediation, drafting pleadings and attending opposed interlocutories. The clients’ instructions were problematised in some way, by blind spots or gilding the lily, for example, or problems of capacity. Students were encouraged to reality test instructions, to maintain professional objectivity and ethical standards, and to resist wilful blindness in pursuit of victory in an adversarial context. The aim was to develop realistic scenarios to provide students with insights about professional objectivity and practical artistry, and constructively align learning activities with assessments. Nigel shared interesting evaluations, where some students clearly “got it”, in terms of objective assessment of client instructions, whereas others might have missed the point. It shows how challenging it is to inculcate certain skills within a limited time; it also shows innovative curriculum planning can improve learning outcomes in skills training. A good synthesis of theory and practice, I look forward to Nigel’s book chapter that draws on this work.

So, that was my experience of the ALT 2014 Annual Conference in Leeds. I am impressed with the open and generous approach attendees adopted in sharing work for external scrutiny, and the generous and constructive approach to discussion and critique. As a newbie, I was made to feel welcome and encouraged to return for next year’s conference in Cardiff. I aim to be there.

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Impressions from ALT Annual Conference 2014 Day 2

image Day 2 of the conference (Monday 14 April) began for me with presentations by Rachael Field (QUT), Elizabeth Lee (ANU) and Caroline Strevens ( University of Portsmouth) on the topic of “The Law Student Well-Being Projects”. Rachael provided a comprehensive overview of Australian developments regarding this topic, including the research by the Brain Mind Research Institute commissioned by the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, and subsequent literature. I was surprised that Michael Appleby and Judy Bourke’s work on mental health and well-being workshops in PLT did not get a mention. That said, Rachael’s presentation was a good overview of the literature, and provided some interesting insights regarding her ALTC fellowship and work on curriculum interventions. She argued that we need to “interrogate what we are doing in teaching and learning” in legal education, in the context of law school’s impact on student well-being. There is evidence to suggest that conventional legal pedagogy is a contributor to stress and depression in law students. Caroline Strevens and Elizabeth Lee gave a concise description of their proposed research involving a comparison of UK and Australian law students, based on previous Australian research. They reported that several UK law schools had already indicated willingness to participate, and they are keen to recruit more, for interviews and focus groups. It sounds like a worthwhile project, and I look forward to hearing more about it.

The Routledge / ALT Teaching Law with Technology Showcase followed, with Linda Jotham (City University) on ‘Collaborative Blogging as a Means of Learning Support in Law’, and Matthew Homewood (Nottingham Law School) on using Twitter as learning support. Linda used a WordPress blog as a discussion forum to respond to student queries and enhance their learning experience. She drew on community of practice and community of inquiry frameworks to operate the blog. The choice of WordPress was interesting, and Linda explained that she felt this was the most robust technological option available. I agree with Linda that a robust, low-tech, option is best when building student trust and enrolment in online discussion forums – bells and whistles are less than important than easy-to-use robust technology in this context. Linda reported that email queries from students virtually disappeared, because the online forum was an effective way of responding to those queries. Matthew used Twitter with a dedicated hashtag to respond to student queries. He advised students that he would be available to answer queries via Twitter at set times. He reported a positive response, with collateral benefits such as peer-to-peer interactions on Twitter and via other social media. A good use of micro-blogging for teaching and learning, with potential to expand in other areas. It is good to see legal educators using these free tools effectively, and I think there are good opportunities for mining additional features of these tools, including analytics, to extend our understanding of teaching and learning through computer-mediated communications.

Next up was Julie Brannan from the Solicitors Regulation Authority, speaking to “Training for Tomorrow”. I’m not completely up to speed with the various training and assessment schemes in the UK, so what I say here needs to be read in that light. I was interested in Julie’s discussion of developments for an assessment framework to follow on from the competence statement for solicitors. The assessment framework is being developed through quantitative and qualitative studies, including interviews and online questionnaires directed to stakeholder groups, and a Delphi group of experts. The functions of the competence statement are to inform training providers about what training should achieve, instructional design, to inform aspiring lawyers, and to provide an assessment tool. The assessment framework is intended to be flexible, focused on what practitioners need to do, i.e. focused on outputs rather than knowledge inputs. It is expected that the assessment framework will be completed in 2016. I will keep an eye on that, because I am interested to see if this process has implications for the qualifications process in Australia.

I attended the ALT AGM, which dealt with routine matters, but was conducted in a light spirit with a lot of goodwill and laughter. I am really impressed by the good-natured collegiality of the ALT constituency. There is no truth in the rumour I attended only for the over-the-top cup cakes.

The next parallel session I attended began with “The Use of iPads in Learning Law”, from Michael Blissenden (University of Western Sydney), and Sandra Clarke and Lucy Yeatman (both from University of Greenwich). Michael described how UWS supplied students with an iPad on enrolment. Sandra and Lucy explained they were issued with 6 iPads to use in their classes. The presenters then discussed the apps they used in classes. For example, Michael referred to the “AustLii”, “Australian Constitution” and “AGLC” apps. Sandra and Lucy introduced the “Show Me”, “Socrative”, and “Display Note” apps. Those of us with our own devices were then asked to participate in a demonstration of Socrative, which involved downloading the app, logging into a class room, then answering quiz questions. On conclusion, the “teacher” displayed a spreadsheet of responses on her iPad. Quite a nifty “clicker” tool, useful for formative assessment in the face to face teaching. Several references were made to existing literature: Cradduck (2013), Prensky (2001), McNeill, Diao and Gosper (2011), Hardy et al (2009), Matthew (2012) and Biggs and Tang (2007). A really useful session for those unfamiliar with this kind of edtech. I should mention my thesis supervisor, Dr Julianne Lynch from Deakin University, is undertaking research with the use of iPads in infant and primary teaching, that might well generate insights useful for higher education, including legal education.

Rachel Wood and Emma Whewell from University of Western England spoke to “Culture Change, not Rule Change”, first steps towards becoming a reflective practitioner through use of e-Portfolios in a Dispute Resolution Skills module on the LLB. This was a interesting account of working with students who had failed an ADR subject, and were given a “last chance” opportunity through blended learning (online and F2F activities) and ePortfolios. Rachel and Emma discussed concepts such as ‘formation of professional identity through skills learning’, ‘collaborative approaches to learning’, providing a safe place for practice in an online space, and ‘guerrilla learning’. The instructional design emphasised organised learning, building trust and confidence, and learner ownership of the coursework. The results included improved pass rates and happier and more relaxed students.

Last presentation of the day was delivered by Patricia Pattison from Texas State University, on “Outrage and Engage: A Story of Eminent Domain”. This involved Patricia’s captivating account of how she engaged students on the first day of a mandatory law class, noting that “first impressions count”. Patricia uses the case of Kelo v City of New London, together with newspaper accounts, photographs, cartoons, quotations to demonstrate the effect of a Supreme Court ruling in a compulsory acquisition of land case (this case involved the acquisition of homes for private commercial purposes). Using this case as an example, Patricia tells her students, “I can tell you things that will make your life better”, showing how knowledge of the law can empower individuals and groups. A really engaging session, and I would have loved to have Patricia as a teacher when I was at law school.

This was a pretty solid day of legal education conferencing and a source of inspiration for me.

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ALT Annual Conference 2014 Day 1

image I am at Leeds in England for the Association of Law Teachers’ Annual Conference. My attendance is supported by funding through Deakin University’ Higher Degree by Research Program, and ALT’s Stan Marsh Bursary. The conference venue is Leeds’ Queens Hotel, which is an Art Deco marvel. I’ve been made to feel welcome by the conference organisers, particularly Beckie Huxley-Binns and Jess Guth (thank you!). People are very friendly here in Leeds, which is nice after 35 hours travel with no sleep (delayed flights and missed connections etc).

Day One of the conference was opened by Rebecca Huxley-Binns with passionate (and often funny) remarks around the conference theme of “responding to change”. “Change”, here, is in the context of the recent Legal Education and Training Review and the ensuing reforms. Rebecca observed how personally felt some changes are, with responses analogous to Kubler-Ross’ description of stages of grief, and “genuine fear of what’s coming.” Rebecca called on law schools to “articulate their raison d’etre”, to declare what they stand for, to “embrace change”, and realise new opportunities for the future of legal education.

Pat Leighton, Director of the Legal Education Research Network (LERN) spoke to “The Urgency of Research for Legal Education” at the first keynote address. Pat described knowledge gaps in legal education, particularly around effective understanding and delivery of legal education, which is exacerbated by failures to take note of existing research. Pat identified policy and law-making as key areas neglected in legal education research, and noted the paucity of research regarding professional legal education. She described LETR as a usefully generative early stage report, that flags areas needing attention in future research. In other words, LETR is a preliminary report rather than a conclusive set of findings. Pat recommended that legal education researchers “find new friends” through interdisciplinary work, to generate fresh insights about research areas, methodologies and methods. These could include revisiting existing data to undertake secondary analyses. Pat described LERN’s facilitative role in legal education research, and urged attendees to engage with LERN’s resources. (I know I will).

We split up for parallel sessions (3 streams), and I attended sessions by Egle Dagilyte and Peter Coe from Buckinghamshire New University, and Kumari Lane from Birbeck College.

Egle and Peter’s session was entitled ‘Professionalism in Higher Education: Important Not Only For Lawyers’. They identified “narrow” and “broad” definitions of “professionalism”. Narrow definitions were aligned with conventional legal education and trajectories, whereas broad definitions were associated with new or evolving legal education trajectories, including unreserved legal practice. Both versions require lawyers to acquire skills, values and certain professional attributes. Here, some attributes were illustrated by fact situations involving early lawyers confronted with novel situations and dilemmas, without supervisor support. Individuals’ capacity to react appropriately was linked to professional attributes that ought to be acquired through legal education. There was some discussion of how lecturers ought to role model professionalism in their teaching and interactions with students. The concept of acquired embodiment of professional attributes is an ongoing preoccupation in legal education. I recently read similar discussions in the 1970s Bowen Report and Brown Report regarding professional legal education in New South Wales. In my opinion, embodied attributes take time to acquire, and appropriate learning conditions are necessary to support this. I am interested to see where Egle and Peter take their research.

Kumari’s presentation was about her research on using online discussion groups for teaching and learning. She found that most students agreed student-student interactions supported their own learning, but lecturer presence was important for guidance and support. Kumari passionately supported online discussion forums as a teaching medium, however she noted that they required substantial support and do not run themselves. Kumari remarked on the difficulty in persuading the organisation to include discussion group activities as assessable work, and the impact this had on student participation in the online discussions. This project looks interesting and I hope Kumari gets support to develop it further.

In the second parallel sessions I attended presentations by Lars Mosesson, Chloe Wallace and Cath Sylvester.
Lars (from Bucks New University) spoke to ‘Responding to What? Busy Chasing the Buzz’. Lars questioned assumptions about what has really changed in legal education, and asked if lecturers were any better at their work than in the years before legal education reforms. It is important to question what changes are proposed, the motivation for those proposals, and identify who is behind the proposals and who stands to benefit from change. It is also important to assess the effectiveness of changes brought about by the reforms. Lars questioned whether there ought to be compulsory CPD for law lecturers. Some in the audience appeared to support professional development for law lecturers, but balked at the proposition of compulsory CPD, with at least one person remarking that it could be counter-productive.

Chloe (from University of Leeds) presented a very interesting theory session, around “connectivism” (Bell 2009; Siemens 2011) and successor theory, in contrast with behaviourist and post-behaviourist theories. Chloe remarked on a “default to behaviourism” and cited legal education’s preoccupation with “thinking like a lawyer” as an example that could fall prey to the default to behaviourism. I am a keen reader of education theory and aware of Siemens’ work but would like to learn more about connectivism and the network theory approach to learning. Not often you see a good theory session at legal education conferences.

The final presentation of the day by Cath (from University of Northumbria) concerned “Measuring Competence In Legal Education: A View From the Bridge”. Cath spoke to a “richer concept of competence” and drew on Miller’s Pyramid (1990) and de Vleuten’s utility index (1996) to discuss how to test for competency in a regulatory environment pressing for “robust” and “rigorous” assessment. It’s a real issue, I agree, particularly in practical legal training, where it can be difficult to reach consensus between assessors about what “competence” is for a given task or practice.
A really good first day at the conference, stimulating and inspiring.

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10 Reasons Why Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Matters in PLT

10 Reasons(1) ‘Teaching makes learning possible’, whereas scholarship of teaching and learning (“SoTL”) shows how ‘learning is made possible’.[1]

(2) SoTL raises ’the status of teaching’, (3) supports practitioners ‘to teach more knowledgeably’, (4) enables assessment of ‘quality of teaching’, (5) improves learning experiences of lawyers-to-be.[2]

(6) Professionalism – a sense of professionalism and responsibility. This involves a PLT practitioner’s profession, both as a lawyer and educator.[4]

(7) Pragmatism – recognition that SoTL informs teaching and learning work in a way that is ‘transparent’ to external scrutiny, and informs individual practice.[5]

(8) Policy – recognition of ‘national, state and local policy’, including policies of legal regulators, admission boards, and higher education regulators.[6] Earn a seat at the policy-making table.

(9) Legislative intent of mandatory PLT includes improvement of the protection of clients, improve the administration of justice, and assure quality legal services.

(10) Learning more about how teaching and learning works, using that knowledge, helps us to do PLT “better”, rewards our efforts as PLT practitioners (self-actualisation).


[1] Mick Healey, ‘Developing the scholarship of teaching in higher education: a discipline-based approach’ (2000) 19(2) Higher Education Research and Development 169 (italics added) 70-71.

[2] Keith Trigwell and Suzanne Shale, ‘Student learning and the scholarship of university teaching’ (2004) 29(4) Studies in Higher Education 523

[3] Lee S Shulman, ‘From Minsk to Pinsk: Why a scholarship of teaching and learning’ (2000) 1(1) Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 48

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 50.

[6] Ibid, 52.

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